Overthinking happens to all of us sometimes when we’re trying to make a decision or solve a problem. We think if we can just think hard enough to get the answer, then we’ll finally be able to relax. Unfortunately this rarely works. The more we think, the more stress we feel, and the harder we try, the more out of reach the answer seems to be.
Our brains want to help us solve problems and protect us from pain or harm. While we certainly need these cognitive functions for our wellbeing—human beings wouldn’t have made it that long without them!—sometimes our minds just don’t know how to give us a break and slow down. The good news is that this is just a habit, a pattern that is wired into our brains, and with the right approach, we can change it.
If you often find yourself stuck in your head even when you wish you could stop, read on to learn the 4 steps that can help you break the pattern of overthinking so you can experience calm clarity instead.
1. Don’t try to stop overthinking.
I know this is counterintuitive, but stick with me. As strange as it might seem, allowing and accepting the overthinking is a necessary first step to dissolving it effectively. Overthinking creates tension in the body and the mind, and when you’re caught in the thick of it, trying to fight it will only make more tension. The key is to resist the temptation to label your overthinking as bad and throw yourself into battle with it. Remember, it’s just your protective brain gone into overdrive like a wired child that’s up too late past their bedtime.
Instead, take the pressure off yourself to stop overthinking. Allow the thoughts to flow. Even if they’re still coming in a torrent, just let it be. You can say to yourself something like “Oh, my brain is overthinking again, how cute!” Even if you don’t really think it’s cute, this kind of self-talk will help you start to become a kind observer of your overthinking and make it not a big deal. You can also say, “Even though I’m overthinking, I choose to allow it, and I fully accept myself.
When you’ve given your overthinking a bit of space and are hopefully feeling a little more accepting of it even as it continues
, you’re ready for step 2.
2. Do something that brings your energy down.
In traditional East Asian medicine, there is a principle called “Water Up, Fire Down
”. It describes the optimal state for a healthy body and a clear mind, and according to this philosophy, overthinking is a symptom of too much “fire” energy up in the head. So we need to bring the fire energy down. There are many Change Your Energy exercises that can do this, such as Dahnjon Tapping
or Brain Wave Vibration
. You can also do something as simple as go for a walk, sit in nature, or do squats right where you are. These activities will stimulate your body and your senses, and start to bring your awareness and your energy down out of your head.
Whichever activity you choose, while you are doing it, keep allowing your thoughts to flow however they want to. Breathe deeply without straining, and breathe out through your mouth. You can imagine your overthinking being released with your outbreath, but keep it gentle and don’t try to force anything.
3. Shift your focus naturally.
When you create Water Up, Fire Down in your body, your thoughts will naturally slow down, and a space for new awareness will open on its own. From this space, you can feed your brain questions in a spirit of compassionate curiosity: “What would it be like to be free from this overthinking?” “What would it be like for my mind to start to relax?”
Gently tell your brain it’s safe to relax.
If you have new insights about your problem when you do this, great. But if you don’t, let that be okay too. If you find it difficult, it might help to tell yourself you’re just doing an experiment to see what happens; afterwards, if you want to start thinking a lot again, you are absolutely free to do so.
4. Anchor in a new pattern.
Now that your energy state is different, you can experience your overthinking in a new light. Notice that even though the issue that triggered your overthinking still exists, you are able to hold it in a gentler, slower stream of thoughts. It’s important to notice this happening because it will help anchor into your brain the belief that it is safe for you to slow down your thinking. Journaling about it can help reinforce it too.
The idea is not only to change your overthinking in the current situation, but to teach your brain that it’s safe—and even feels good—to release the habit in general, so you become less prone to it in the future.
The more you practice these 4 steps—don’t try to stop overthinking, change your energy
, shift your focus naturally, and anchor in a new pattern—the more your brain will loosen its grip and give you the freedom and clarity you crave.
The Change Your Energy Premium Membership offers access to weekly live classes plus hundreds of courses and webinars that can help you get out of your head and into your body, shift your energy, and anchor in new positive mind patterns. Learn about it here.